PRESS: Groups Protest Violence Against Anti-Mining Activists
Prakrutik Sampada Surakshya Parishad (PSSP)
February 1, 2005

New Delhi: Protesting against the state-sponsored violence against indigenous and dalit peoples in Orissa to facilitate the entry of mining companies into bauxite rich forest lands, members of Orissa-based struggle group Prakrutik Sampada Surakshya Parishad (PSSP), along with New Delhi-based youth and human rights activists, writers and intellectuals today submitted a memorandum to the Resident Commissioner of Orissa after a peaceful demonstration in front of the Orissa Bhavan in New Delhi this morning. The memorandum demanded the immediate and unconditional release of 18 PSSP members who have been illegally arrested since December 2004 and to stop the human rights abuses by the state police on the villagers around Kashipur who have been for years peacefully resisted the moves by bauxite mining consortium Utkal Alumina International Ltd (UAIL) to take over their land and forests for a 100% export oriented alumina mining and refinery project.

The Rs 4500 crore UAIL is a joint venture of Indian company HINDALCO (55% share) and Canadian company ALCAN (45%). TATA, HYDRO (Norwegian) and ALCOA (America) who were earlier part of the venture, were forced to withdraw from the project due to the mass struggle and opposition by the villagers. The project will source bauxite from a 195 million ton deposit in Baphli Mali, a sacred hill for the adivasis. The promoters also plan to set up an alumina refinery near Kucheipadar, from where it will be exported. At the refinery's capacity of consuming 9 million tones of bauxite per year, the Baphlimali deposit will be exhausted within two decades.

The mines and refinery are slotted to come up in adivasi-majority areas that are protected by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution. The Fifth Schedule guarantees the right of land to adivasis, and prohibits the transfer of these lands to non-tribals for any purpose. "The Government of Orissa is in the hands of the mining companies. Since early December, the Government has unleashed a reign of terror in the villages near the proposed mining project, and is keen on evicting the people at gun-point," said Rabi Shankar of PSSP.

On November 25, 2004 Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was quoted as saying that anti-mining struggles will be firmly dealt with. From late November, villages that are protesting the Utkal Alumina project proposed on their lands have been under siege by the police.

On December 1st , 2004, the state police launched a brutal lathi charge on 400 adivasis, mostly women, who had gathered to protest the inauguration of a road to a proposed bauxite-mining site in Baphlimali owned by ALCAN. As a result, 16 people were critically injured and three women were beaten unconscious. Since this incident, platoons of armed police with firing orders have occupied Kucheipadar village - the center of the adivasi struggle. Eighteen activists of PSSP, the umbrella organization of adivasis spearheading the struggle against bauxite mining have been picked up from their villages mostly in the night in separate incidents and are now in jail without access to bail.

"This is not the first time that adivasis of Kashipur are facing such state repression and police brutality," said Rabi Shankar. On December 16, 2000, three adivasis were killed in Kashipur when police fired on unarmed villagers associated with the people's struggle against bauxite mining. Following international outrage at the incident, one of UAIL's original stakeholders, Norsk Hydro of Norway, withdrew from the project in a move that clearly implicated both the UAIL and the Orissa government.

The situation in rest of Orissa is not very different. As many as five bauxite mining and alumina projects are in the pipeline, covering 5 blocks of 3 districts -- Kashipur ( Rayagada district) , Luxmipur and Dasamantpur( Koraput), Lanjigada and Thuamulrampur (Kalahandi). Sterlite is proposed to source bauxite from Sasubohu mali of Kashipur block. Larson and Tubro from Sijimali and Kutrumali ( Kashipur block), Birla from Kodinga Mali ( Luxmipur block) and Vedanta from Niyamgiri and Khandual mali of Kalahandi district.

"The total investment in the Orissa bauxite projects is to the tune of Rs 20,000 crores. Taking into consideration the present price of even just UAIL, the joint venture will reap a profit of at least Rs 2,88,000 crore during the 22-23 years of the project life, whereas the government will get Rs. 1300-1400 crores as royalty during that period. And the adivasis and dalits of these villages will get state repression, and a lifetime of misery and slum life," added Ranjana Padhi of Saheli Women's Resource Centre, Delhi, a group supporting the Kashipur peoples' struggle.

For more information, contact:
Ranjana Padhi 9811150884
Harish Dhawan 9811667776

Visit: "Alcan't In India" http://www.saanet.org/alcant

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